I have heard that in many cases writers prefer to read genres on the opposite spectrum of what they write. Even though it is true that I enjoy works of fiction, I am always drawn to reading non-fiction and I am grateful for the opportunity to read numerous books that expand my knowledge on various topics. The Rite is one of those books. Despite having a strong inclination towards the supernatural and paranormal, I try not to feed the desires; Matt Baglio’s book was a guilty pleasure for me and I learned more than I could’ve hoped to.
After attending the lecture at the AWP conference on structuring a book-length memoir it made me think a lot about the structure of The Rite. Baglio is a journalist and so he wrote this book, not as a first-hand account or memoir (even though he traveled alongside the protagonist), but as a work of research, sharing the experiences of the priest he shadowed. I wish I had a more luminous way of expressing the approach Baglio took with this work, but the technical words elude me.
The Rite is primarily chronological, commencing at the inception of a journey that Father Gary takes towards becoming a trained exorcist and proceeds by taking us along for the wild ride. We go to school with Father Gary and learn the history behind exorcism alongside him, inevitably apprenticing with a seasoned priest and experiencing real exorcisms. Interspersed in the story are investigative sections that delve deeper into the history of the Church, interpretations of evil, and psychological studies. It is obvious that Baglio did an immense amount of research in order to write this book. His research extends far past his time spent with Father Gary; he interviews many doctors, psychologists and priests and includes a lengthy section on the apprehension men of science have when it comes to that which cannot be seen or explained. By adding these sections, Baglio successfully wrote a strong investigative piece and not simply an account of one man’s life.
Given the large amount of research and quotes used throughout the book, I looked at the manner in which Baglio decided to cite his work. Clean of any numbers or marks on the pages within, the references are all addressed in the back of the book in a section he calls notes; he also has a section called selected bibliography. Baglio writes: “About the citations: For the sake of maintaining the narrative flow, I have kept citations in the text to a minimum. Unless specifically noted here in the end-notes, direct quotations appearing in the text are taken from my interviews.” In his “notes” section, he divides them by chapter and page. This is done in a similar fashion to our annotations. He writes the page number and the words that are noted in bold and then gives us additional information that is pertinent.
In reading reviews of the book, I found many to be critical of this work by Baglio for its strong Catholic interpretation, but I can’t help but feel that he was successful in covering all his bases. He addressed other non-Catholic denominations and religions and their equal desire to seek out help with demonic possession. Granted, the belief herein is that only Jesus Christ can expel demons but that comes with the territory when reading a book of this nature. I don’t think Baglio’s intention was to prove or disprove that only Catholic priests have the ability to exorcise demons, but he was looking more at the history of exorcism within the Church. Baglio gives us a little insight into how he came to write this book at the end in his “Author’s Note.” His original intention was to write an article but when he met Father Gary everything changed – the Catholic in me would call that divine intervention.
The Rite proved to be a great read for me this semester; it made me pay attention to structure and research. Even though I am writing a memoir, there is still the possibility that I will need to incorporate research into my work and Baglio gave me a lot to consider.